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Atlantic City in need of a hand, not online wagering

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Is online gaming the savior for Atlantic City?

It probably can't do worse than the other saviors, like Revel, which visitors may not realize is a casino; the ACES train; or new lighting on the Boardwalk. But it seems likely that, at least in the short term, gaming is going to be a beacon of hope against the stygian night of plunging casino revenue.

What's clear is that online gaming is certainly a win for casino operators and the real estate community. For the casinos, it's a chance to bring in gamblers in New Jersey who don't want to be bothered with all the fuss of making the trip down to the city. Developers, meanwhile, have the opportunity to build the data centers that will be demanded of online gaming, and that will be a successful product in the wide-open spaces of South Jersey. It will certainly mean more jobs, as casinos hire to staff online operations and, presumably, avoid the layoffs that might be required as gaming revenues slide deeper into the Delaware River.

So we certainly support the idea of online gaming as a business strategy for the casinos. But as part of a broader strategy to help resurrect the city itself, this plan isn't all it appears to be. How, to start with the $64,000 question, will the city attract tourists when its primary means of doing so is now available at the click of a mouse? There are other developments, such as the Walk shopping mall, basically born of the idea that if you brought high-end shopping to Atlantic City, it would give women something to do while their men lost money at the tables. If gamblers won't even make the drive to Atlantic City, why would shoppers? Or those making a spa appointment? Or dinner reservation?

Casinos have every reason to love this idea, and probably can't wait until the Legislature makes the changes requested by Chris Christie to get the ball rolling on this. But for those working to stage a comeback for the seaside resort, this bill looks a lot like it rolled snake eyes, again.

Write to the Editorial Department at editorial@njbiz.com

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